What is more exciting, winning a NCAA Division I basketball championship or selling a yearling for a seven-figure price? To Dr. Earl Shultz, who has done both, the national title was the bigger accomplishment, but watching the Smart Strike ridgling he bred bring $1 million during the third session of the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington “was close behind.”
Bruce D. Gibbs’ Greenfield Farm consigned the ridgling for Schulz, and the bay yearling was sold to George Bolton and wine mogul Jess Jackson for $1 million Sept. 14. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was the underbidder.
“Sure I got excited, just like anybody else would,” Shultz said. “We’ve all had our brains kicked out by the market and we’ve sold horses for one-tenth of their stud fees and expenses. I felt super lucky in today’s market, where you’re just trying to get horses sold and not buy them back. That’s why we put a low reserve on him that we thought was realistic -- it was $179,000 – and then we hoped to get two people hooked up so the price would go high. But we never figured it would go that high.”
Schultz, 71, is a retired radiologist who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He was a guard on the University of California, Berkeley, basketball team that won the 1959 national championship, and he also was on the team that lost to Ohio State in the national championship game the following year. He got involved in the Thoroughbred business in the early 1970s as a yearling buyer, and his closest associates in his horse ventures include Gibbs and Washington state horseman Jerre Paxton.
Shultz was a member of the Surf and Turf Stable partnership that raced 1981 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Splendid Spruce, who finished seventh in that year’s Kentucky Derby (gr. I). He also was a co-breeder of Chipara (by Gone West), who brought $1 million at the 2005 Keeneland September sale when consigned by Greenfield.
Shultz privately purchased the stakes-placed winner In On the Secret (by Secretariat), who is the second dam of the $1 million Smart Strike ridgling, through Kentucky bloodstock agent Peter Bradley. The yearling’s dam, Ask Me No Secrets (by Seattle Slew), won the 2002 Oaklawn Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) for Shultz. He said he bred her to Smart Strike because “first of all, the Mr. Prospector (who is the sire of Smart Strike) and Seattle Slew cross has worked. My partner Jerre Paxton and I also have a share in Smart Strike that we bought when he was originally syndicated.
“I love Smart Strike, who throws a lot of good, sound horses that run on dirt, grass, and synthetics,” Shultz continued. “It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure this deal out.”
Shultz owns two mares outright and interests in two others, and he breeds primarily to sell.
“My objective in the horse business has always been to stay real small,” said Shultz of the size of his Thoroughbred operation.
Shultz and Gibbs, who raised the Smart Strike ridgling at Greenfield near Lexington, have known each other for more than 30 years.
“From the time he was a foal, he was a nice horse,” said Gibbs of the $1 million yearling. “We never had any problems with him and he was a dream to raise. He’s developed and done this all on his own. He’s very correct, very strong, and muscular, and he’s also balanced. He’s got a nice walk.”
Gibbs and Shultz weren’t sure how much the ridgling could bring when he was offered at Keeneland.
“He X-rayed and scoped fine, and coming in, we thought he was easily a $150,000 to $200,000 horse,” Gibbs said. “As more vet work was done, I was thinking he could probably bring $300,000 or $400,000. He could have been a select horse, but on my wish list to Keeneland, I purposely didn’t ask for him to be in book one (of the sale catalog). He has a great family, but his dam hasn’t produced (a stakes winner) yet and I didn’t know how he would stack up to the other select horses pedigree-wise. Part of that (the dam’s lack of an added-money winner) is just bad luck. She’s raised nice horses but they have just had problems in training.”
The Smart Strike ridgling is the fourth live foal out of Ask Me No Secrets.
“Bruce does a great job; this was a team effort,” Shultz said. “It wasn’t and I or me situation. Those are the worst terms in the English language -- I and me – to my way of thinking.”